Nfld. & Labrador

Boss who 'hired' Al Potter to be a debt collector faces him at trial

He carefully took off his pea coat, laying it on a chair next to the witness box, where he'd take the stand against Al Potter.

WARNING: This story contains strong language which may be offensive to some

Al Potter speaks with his lawyers Jon Noonan (left) and Randy Piercey (right) before Day 13 of his first-degree murder trial at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

He carefully took off his pea coat, laying it on a chair next to the witness box, where he stepped up, confidently grabbing the Bible in his right hand, and was sworn in as a witness at the first-degree murder trial for Al Potter.

The middle aged, grey-haired man wore a neat suit. It was a far different choice of clothing than the jeans, black ankle boots and t-shirt he wore on Sept. 25, 2016 — the day he met Potter outside the Dominion Hotel in Minden, Ont. 

Audio of the meeting, recorded by the undercover RCMP officer's bodypack, captured Potter's enthusiasm for his release earlier that day from jail in nearby Lindsay.

"I'm doing good," his voice boomed, as the two greeted each other.

"Big week for you," said the officer, acting as the boss of a debt collecting business.

"It is, it is."

Later chuckling, "I was just sitting over there on that wooden thing over there looking out over the river and saying to myself, holy f--k Al, what the f--k are you getting yourself into?"

For months the officer — and a team of investigators — laid the groundwork for this day.

He visited the Vikings Motorcycle Club bar on Boncloddy Street four months earlier, the jury heard, frequented a bar near George Street known as a Vikings hangout, and visited Potter on two occasions in jail.

"It brings the reality of the fictitious relationship with the police agent to Mr Potter," he explained to the jury Wednesday morning. 

"The cover story was essentially debt collectors in a literal sense, but also in a more figurative sense in the world of organized crime."

It gets 'pretty sticky'

Potter, the audio suggests, was ready and willing to get to work, telling the officer his friend picked him up an item at Canadian Tire and Potter brought along a can of "dog spray."

"I don't give a f--k, we'll put it in the trunk," the officer said, playing the part.

"We don't need to f--king race so we'll keep the f--king chances of being pulled over by those f--king c--ts to a minimum."

On many occasions Potter expresses his gratitude for the work and the opportunity to learn and to work under his new boss.

"Once again, I wanna tell ya, I appreciate you taking me on for work, I really do, [undercover officer]."

'Business is business for me'

While touting his strong stomach, and a "strong back" for lifting, he also expressed some concerns about the work itself.

"Some of it's hard though, all the same, I gotta say, there are sometimes ... sometimes it gets pretty sticky," Potter said.

"Depends what's there ... who's involved and ya see people with wives and kids and stuff and if you gotta evict 'em from their apartment and ... to renovate their apartment or something, ya know, what's when it gets sticky, when you got kids involved and they're cryin' and all that shit."

The undercover officer explained that he needs to take the emotion out of the job.

"Business is business for me ... it makes ... it's easy to have a colder heart," the Mountie said.

"I'm gonna learn from you," Potter responded. 

During one point in the conversation, Potter suggests he's interested in working more than once with the boss, in an "extended" capacity.

It's not how he works, the officer said, adding he needs to get to know him first.

"Ahm, I need to let you know, I did get arrested for murder three years ago, not formally charged," Potter said.

'I won't keep any secrets'

He said he didn't tell police anything, and repeated that he'd "rather seek counsel."

"They still got my clothes for DNA. It's an unsolved thing," Potter said, before the officer interrupts and suggests continuing the conversation in the vehicle.

"Clearly there's attention on you," the officer said.

"I'm a business man. Whatever business that might be,' Potter explained.

"I can turn it on and turn it off and I'd like to think of myself as rather intelligent in what I do."

There was no more information gleaned on what his role may or may not have been in Porter's stabbing death. The undercover officer explained that he didn't want to delve into asking anymore questions to built trust and credibility.

Potter, meanwhile, stressed he was a man of truth and brotherhood.

"If someone stubs their f--king toe down there [Newfoundland], I got major crimes putting a card in my door," he explained, after the officer told him he read about him online. 

"There can't be no secrets. I won't keep any secrets from you, OK?"

Follow along with live tweets from the courthouse below. Can't see it? Click here.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.